Recently the Pittsburgh Penguins have played in a bunch of high scoring, free wheeling games. In the past three games a total of nine, nine and five goals have been scored. Today was a different story, when the Boston Bruins came to town. The game had the feel of a more closely guarded, tighter checked contest and only three times were goalies beaten.
Boston would get on the board first, after a mad scramble Blake Wheeler poked a puck past Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net. Fleury wasn't too pleased with all the activity in and around his crease and he didn't get a quick whistle, but obviously the puck wasn't close to being trapped, so it was the right call.
Pascal Dupuis, who earned a well deserved first star of the night, got the Pens on the board when he took the puck from a Sidney Crosby pass and man-powered the puck past a downed Tim Thomas in a similiar type of gritty, in-your-face goal to the game at one.
Early in the third period Alexei Ponikarovsky and Evgeni Malkin galloped into the zone, Poni left the puck for Geno and drove for the net and Malkin blasted a shot past Thomas. It'd be the game's last goal and secure a 2-1 win.
Matt Cooke leveled Boston's Marc Savard with 5:37 left in the game, in what's sure to be a controversial hit and something the league will have to look at. Cooke's hit was with his shoulder and hardly a second after Savard played the puck, but it was also a dangerous hit swooping in from behind that ended up targeting the head. Savard was concussed and stretchered off the ice. In many ways, it was a lot like the hit that Philly's Mike Richards put on Florida's David Booth earlier in the season, which also required the stretcher. Unlike Richards (who received a major and game misconduct), Cooke, it should be noted, was not penalized by the on ice officials because the play did develop quickly and while the result was an injury, it was the circumstances that made both plays dangerous.
If the league is serious about cracking down on head shots, this is going to have to be something they take a look at, even though Cooke for his part has to play a physical game and always look to finish his checks. Dangerous but an unavoidable part of the game? Or something that needs further discipline to show these direct head-shots can not be tolerated? It's a very fine line, but given Cooke's history of questionable hits, it won't be surprising or totally outrageous if he's levied with a suspension. (more on this tomorrow)
- The Penguins willingness to shoot pucks from all angles continued into this game. Thomas did well to stay standing and fight off several high shots and make nice saves in the process. Dupuis had 5 shots on net, Chris Kunitz had 6, Malkin and Crosby both had 4. The right guys are definitely directing a lot of rubber to the net for Pittsburgh right now.
- FSN Pittsburgh dug up a great stat: Marc-Andre Fleury is now 29-3-4 in the month of March since 2007 (including 2-0 this young March). The keep really turns it on and sets the team up for long playoff runs with his efforts as the months get warmer and with a 21 save on 22 shot performance tonight he seems back in the groove to potentially add to this impressive record.
- For this weekend's two games new face Jordan Leopold was on the ice for 5 goals for (all in either even strength or short-handed situations) and was on the ice for 0 goals against. It's a small sample size, but good things are happening when the new #4 is patrolling the ice.
- 8 games in 13 days now for Sidney Crosby, who still looked good even if Boston held the league's leading scorer from finishing one. The Pens have three days off and no one deserves it more than the Captain.
- In fact, the boys are about to trudge off on a five game roadie: at Carolina on Thursday before bouncing up the New Jersey on Friday, then a 5:00 PM dinner time game in Tampa Bay next Sunday and then Jersey again next Wednesday before ending it the following night with these Boston Bruins. Obviously the 2 NJD games loom large, but as the old cliche goes "one game at a time".
- Four straight post-Olympic wins for the Pens in the past six days, and three of those have been by a single goal. This is a team that knows how to win, how to close and how to hold on, and you can almost see them tuning up for when the games count in April now.
So, as alluded to earlier, comes the three day break where we'll probably see a little down-time so far as news. We wait on word for if Cooke will be punished, the status of veteran forward Bill Guerin (who's missed the past three games with back spasms) and